Child safety seats for cars

lathechuck's picture

I just heard part of a podcast from the Freakonomics series, which claimed that there was no actual scientific evidence that having children ages 2-6 strapped into a child safety seat was any more safe than an adult lap belt. They could find no evidence in the literature, so they hired a crash-test lab to do the experiments for themselves, and found that, if there was any difference, it was sufficiently small that a simple lap belt would pass the official safety-seat testing standard. So, WHY do we have laws that require child safety seats?

Well, the manufacturers of child safety seats are all in favor of mandatory usage, of course. And the auto-makers are only too happy to compel families to buy bigger vehicles, to hold the safety seats. And the law-makers, being well-informed on the issue by both the seat and auto manufacturers, are happy to enact "something for the children".

But what's the unintended side-effect? People who are THINKING about having a child, or another child, seem to recognize that they're going to be immediately hit with the expense of buying a bigger vehicle, and are choosing not to have the child! Some tricky mathematical analysis showed (IF I heard correctly!) that for every child's life (claimed to be) saved by a safety seat, there are over 100 children not conceived due to the extra expense.

But, my own take on this adds one more factor: is safety-seat compliance higher than seat-belt compliance would be, without the safety-seat mandate? Maybe children are actually safer in safety-seats that they now use, instead of lap belts that they would not use.

Think critically, and discuss!

It wouldn't surprise me either way: someone's bright money-making idea that's easy for the car manufacturers to get in line with because they DON'T have to make an expensive change themselves.

My dad (now 87) remembers how car manufacturers FOUGHT against installing seat belts. Too expensive. They don't work. What about older cars. No one will want them. Etc., etc., etc.

I have read that in some very wealthy families, kids past #3 can be a status symbol because child #4 proves you're rich.